Regular Joes

By: Brady Evans Venables

Well, we’ve finally done it. We just sold the farm. Moved into a subdivision. Downsized from 6 acres to .3 acres. We don’t see our horses every day anymore. They’re 2 miles away from our neighborhood being boarded. We’ve officially changed our lifestyle – we used to exude “horse people” status and now we are just regular joes.

The farm

The farm

Why did we do it? After quitting our jobs in North Carolina 5 years ago and giving up our nice, comfortable home to live on the farm? Why sell it and start all over again? It was the kid.

We used to work arm to arm on the weekends – we’d do some manual labor, hop on the horses for a ride, take showers, and head to town for a dinner out. The baby came along and with the baby comes a full time caregiver. We began tag-teaming farm work and parenting, passing in the night, doing “shifts,” barely connecting with each other. We felt guilty for not having family time, guilty for not having horse time, guilty for not having couple time.

Our family on the farm

Our family on the farm

It all started when my husband walked in the door and said “sometimes I almost wish we didn’t have this farm,” sighed, and collapsed on the sofa. I felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my chest because I had been thinking the same thing for weeks but was too scared to say it.

We started talking about selling the farm, tabling the discussion, and bringing it up again. We started looking at the finances of moving and boarding the horses, perusing for houses in family-friendly neighborhoods, and crying.

Halloween outside our new home

Halloween outside our new home

We knew what we had to do. Sell the farm. Prioritize our family. Get rid of the guilt. About 15 months after our first discussion about giving up the lifestyle, I sit here in our new home with a tiny yard and neighborhood pool, having just visited the horses 2 miles away, and sigh. Relief.

Our son won’t grow up on the farm and learn “work ethic” like everyone claimed he would. But he will learn the value of family and he can learn work ethic like my husband and I did – in a regular suburban home. We miss it. We don’t regret it. Learning that missing something and regretting something are two very different emotions was an important step in this journey.

Grandmother Betty Blog Post

By: Leah Prescott

Grandmother Betty

My paternal grandmother, Betty Clayton, was a strong, independent, loving woman who constantly looked for ways to help other people. Widowed in her twenties, she raised her two sons alone and provided fully for their every need. She delighted in hospitality and was passionate about her family. She had a wonderful sense of humor, an amazingly sharp memory, and a perfectly honed rotation of well-loved recipes and traditions to share. She was honest to a fault, outspoken at times and always confident. When I was a teenager, I sometimes found it difficult to get along with her, but now I realize that was because we were very much alike in many ways.

It was impossible to ignore my Grandmother Betty, partially because her frank conversations were always studded with colorful and sometimes perplexing phrases and metaphors. Some were self-explanatory, like “mad as a wet hen” or “just as easy as falling off a log.” Others were more obscure and harder to define, such as “Katy bar the door” which clues everyone in that something bad is going to happen. If you were on the brink of doing something stupid, she would threaten, “Your name will be mud.” When circumstances were looking down, it was “too wet to plow.”

Grandmother Betty

Unexpected company was greeted with the ambiguous, “Well, look what the cat dragged in,” or, only slightly more complimentary, “I haven’t seen you in coon’s age.” When her grandchildren expressed dissatisfaction, she would respond that “if wishes were horses we’d all take a ride.” If she thought what you wished for was ridiculous, though, she’d say “You need that like you need a hole in your head!”

When someone was displayed particular stubbornness, she would declare, “You don’t believe cow horns will hook!”  She would express her own confidence by betting “five dollars to four donuts.” However, if things didn’t turn out like she expected she would be a “sick chicken.” Grandmother often told stories of her childhood when “pennies were scarcer than hens’ teeth.” If an individual were a particular tightwad, she would say he was so cheap he’d “chew paper instead of gum” or say he was “tighter than Dick’s hatband.” A lazy person wouldn’t “take a job tasting pies at a pie factory.” You could fit all she knew “about technology in a hollo’ tooth,” and if the said electronic device failed to operate at all, it was “as dead as Hector.” She scorned the latest “pure stupid” trends by laughing that she “wouldn’t give 5 cents for all of ‘em wrapped up in red paper.”

I miss my Grandmother so much. She left me with many of her recipes, a little bit of her sass, and only a few of her colloquialisms recorded. Maybe one day I can write a book  about all the wonderful memories she gifted our family. I guess I better start working on that book right now. After all, “maybes don’t grow on trees.”

Kermit, Gonzo and Friends Come to Life in Sing Along with The Muppet Movie

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Sing Along GonzoArmed with bubbles, ribboned batons, dancin’ shoes and hearts filled with song, families and friends will join musicians and Muppeteers as they head cross-country with Kermit and the gang for an interactive, one-of-a-kind matinee experience, Sing Along with The Muppet Movie, at Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College on Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 3:30 p.m.

In this participatory event that is part film screening and part live performance, children and adults alike are invited to laugh, dance and sing along with the classic Muppets characters as they evoke thrills and memories on screen and stage – from singing with Kermit the Frog during Rainbow Connection to dancing with Fozzie Bear to Movin’ Right Along.

The original, 1979 film,The Muppet Movie, will be shown using Harbison Theatre’s state-of-the-art screen and sound system, while Muppeteers and performers bring elements of the film to life for the audience. The stage ensemble is made up of skilled IBEX Puppetry team members, including, on occasion, show creator Heather Henson, daughter of Muppets originator Jim Henson. Using puppetry, kiting, and shadow acting, the Muppeteers add layers of action to the event including moments when Muppets take flight over the audience.

The audience will be encouraged to sing along when cued by the Muppets and Muppeteers, as well as blow bubbles, wave streamers, yell out famous lines, fly kites, dance in the aisles and pop confetti – making the experience interactive from start to finish.

“It’s the Rocky Horror Picture Show for children and families,” explains Katie Fox, Executive Director of Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College. “It’s so much more than the bounce-along dot at the bottom of a screen. The experience comes with its own band, as well as the Muppeteers!” Fox adds, “Each ticket to Sing Along with The Muppet Movie comes with its own goody bag, filled with bubbles, ribbons on wands and glow in the dark goodies – each of which has its own moment of use during the film, with instructions on screen.”

The immersive performance is not only multi-layered but multi-generational. It’s a nostalgic trip for Baby Boomers who grew up watching “The Muppet Show” on television and took their kids to see the original film in 1979; it’s a hoot for those same kids who now have their own children; and it’s a riot for the newest generation of kids, who only recently might have been introduced to Sesame Street.

Individual show tickets are available now at


Writing Cursive Off?

By: Chaunte McClure

Like many of you, I spend more time key stroking than I do putting pen to paper, but I do occasionally write – in print and cursive. It just depends on what I’m writing and my mood. Yes, my mood determines my writing style, and even writing quality.

cursiveI came across an article today about legislators in Washington state considering a bill that would make teaching cursive handwriting mandatory in public schools. What?! It’s not already required? I’ve heard similar talk in the media before, but I guess I really didn’t take it seriously or didn’t think schools would actually remove cursive from the curriculum.

While I understand we use computers and other electronic devices in many careers and kids use tablets and laptops in schools, I am concerned about the idea of not teaching cursive.

I loved learning to write in cursive. I think I was in third grade when Mrs. Poston taught our class the art of cursive writing. I remember how she would slide the chalkboard liner across the dusty green chalkboard to make perfect lines and demonstrate how to write the upper and lowercase letters. Then we’d practice handwriting on paper. You remember the grayish-colored paper with the blue solid line, broken line, solid line pattern, right? Learning how to loop and join letters was so much fun. I loved it! All that practice helped improve my penmanship and boosted my writing confidence. I was always scribbling on paper, writing words or my name in cursive. I still find myself doing it, especially if I’m sitting in a boring meeting or as a warm-up exercise before I have to complete some type of document.

Knowing how to write in cursive made me feel like a big girl. I could do something that adults knew how to do. Is it a lost art? Should it become one?

Sure, times have changed, but I don’t think change has been so swift that kids should not learn cursive writing. What about signing their name? Will everything soon require an electronic signature? What if they have to research old, handwritten documents? How will they read them?

I guess I’m officially old school. I do have friends who prefer writing in print, but I wonder if they’re opposed to their kids learning cursive?

Raise your hand, or your voice, if you want to keep cursive in schools. Scroll down and express yourself in the comments.

A Pantry Essential

By: Brady Evans

When you think of a pantry item you should never be without you may immediately picture flour, rice, canned vegetables or soup. I’m here to tell you that the pantry item on your
grocery list you should never be without is SALSA. Salsa is cheap, adds tons of flavor and salsafiber to meals, can be used a million different ways, and you will soon see why it is the MVP of your pantry.

Recipes you can make – from slow cooker feasts to quick and dirty snacks – with salsa are endless. Whether you are a vegetarian or live on meat, salsa is here to turn your dinner dilemma into a dinner you can’t wait for!

Here are some of my favorites that feature salsa as the main ingredient:

Salsa chicken – Combine one jar of salsa and chicken breasts (or a couple of cans of black beans) in the slow cooker and allow it cook all day.  Chicken breasts can even start frozen.  Serve over rice, in tacos, or in burritos when it is dinner time! Protein, veggies, and flavor!  What’s not to love?

Scrambled eggs and salsa – Scramble some eggs and top with salsa for a spiced up spin on your usual breakfast. Or have this breakfast for dinner.

Salsa soup Recipe here – Salsa, protein, and some chicken broth are combined to make an awesome soup. Top with a squeeze of lime, avocado chunks, and some cilantro and you’ll feel like you are eating at a restaurant.

Salsa chicken chiliRecipe here – Warm up with salsa chicken chili. You’re only four ingredients away from your new favorite meal.

These four recipe ideas should add some spice to your meal routine!

M.A.C. Join the Movement that is…The Midlands Arts Conservatory

By: Shannon Boatwright 

fine arts

When I hear the words ARTS CONSERVATORY, my interest is peaked, my attention grabbed, and my artistic heart and mind are intrigued. So you can imagine my response when my fellow artist and teacher friend, Amy Hyman Reynolds, mentioned the mission for an Arts Conservatory here in the Midlands – a public charter school with a fine arts focus for 5th graders on up through high school.

What!? What?! Every part of me halted with instant enthusiasm and excitement at the mere thought. As a lover, supporter and teacher of the Fine Arts, my heart swells at the mention of the mission to bring an Arts-focused school to my community. I know I may sound a bit dramatic to some, but if you have even an inkling of the outstanding benefits that the Fine Arts provide to young minds, I believe you would quickly understand my passion.

Other areas in South Carolina, like Greenville and Charleston, have come to realize the benefits of launching Arts-focused schools. These charter schools are creating successful, well-rounded adults that contribute to our communities in so many outstanding ways.

Columbia, South Carolina needs this! We have such a wealth of talent in our local communities.


“The arts can help students become tenacious, team oriented, problem solvers who are confident and able to think creatively.” – Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education


The young, brilliant minds of our community ache for the opportunity to integrate the Arts into the core subjects and hone their talents. Having an Arts-focused charter school in the Midlands would provide an incredible learning opportunity for students. It really is hard for me to find the words to truly express the magnitude of benefits. The movement that is M.A.C. – The Midlands Arts Conservatory – is a dream come true for an area that is bursting at the seams with talent.

I implore you, I sincerely ask you, I dare you to take the time to learn more about the proposed mission to bring M.A.C. to our lovely community. Allow yourself to soak up all the information about this movement so that you can become a part of it! Please get involved, help spread the word, submit a letter of interest, come to the meetings, acknowledge the great benefits of the Arts, and show your support! The deadline is near to prove that M.A.C. is a most worthy cause that will do nothing but benefit others.

Visit their website to learn more:


“Amazing things happen and great knowledge is attained when the arts help to bring core school subjects to life. The joy of the arts is that they can be integrated into every subject. In a perfect educational world, every school would have a fine arts program and arts integration would be a part of every school’s curriculum. Students and teachers would only benefit; there are no negative aspects whatsoever, only the deepening of understanding. To those who recognize the benefits of, engage in and truly support the arts, bravo to you! And thank you.” – Shannon Elizabeth Boatwright


As most of my readers know, I am no stranger to supporting the Arts. Some of my past blog entries are prime examples:

Enrich your mind and enlighten yourself. Take the time to read my blog posts. Spend time Googling the studies that explain the many ways students benefit from fines arts education and arts integration. And by all means, devour the Midlands Arts Conservatory website.

The next information sessions are on January 24th and January 30th. (You can find more details on their website.) Learn about their mission and think on what it could do to fill a void in our community. The community leaders and professionals that are spearheading this movement are an impressive group of some of the finest teachers and supporters of the Arts. I am proud to join the movement and show my support. I hope that you will too!


This blog post reflects the views of its author, Shannon Boatwright, and is not an endorsement for the school by Lexington Medical Center. 

For the List Enthusiasts: Bullet Journaling

By: Leah Prescott

Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved using lists. It’s not because I am an organized person….quite the opposite. In fact, I tend to get overwhelmed and forget things which lead to me wasting time. Lists have always been a tool for me to gain control of tasks, even if I don’t always complete them.


Late last summer, I starting seeing a lot of cyber talk about bullet journaling. If you like lists, you will absolutely LOVE this planning method. Called “an analog system for a digital age,” bullet journaling is a system of organizing lists so that nothing falls through the cracks. are different variations of the method; it’s flexible, forgiving, and customizable. I immediately knew it sounded like the perfect method for me. I love the feel of a pen and paper, but I struggle to consistently use rigid calendar systems. I always fail at digital calendars of all kinds. The best part is, all you really need is a pen and a notebook.

bullet journaling

Since I have started bullet journaling in August, I have done much better at staying on top of my to-do lists. I always know where to find important information and I find my planning time to be so much more effective than it ever was before. The best part is that I finally have a spot for all the random ideas and questions that pop into my head throughout the day and I can actually retrieve that information at any given time. Talk about a game changer! For example, if I am suddenly struck with the perfect gift idea for my brother for Christmas, I will add it to the Christmas 2016 page. If I want to remind myself to look up a homeschool deadline, I will add it to my homeschool planning page. If I make a new recipe that’s a hit with the family, I will add it to the Meal Rotation page. I finally feel like my obsessive list-making is working for me!

bullet journaling

If you are interested in Bullet Journaling, you can read all about it here:

Happy listing!